Grafting Knitting Myth 3, Part I: A Grafted Row Is the Equivalent of One Pattern Row

In our last post, we tackled the grafting myth surrounding the half-stitch jog. This time around, we are ready to bust the myth that has knitters believing that a grafted row is the equivalent of one pattern row. Have you heard this? Are you a believer? If so, get ready for a change of perspective.


Most knitters who’ve used Kitchener stitch (stockinette stitch grafting) to close the toes of socks wouldn’t consider it grafting “in pattern.” That term is usually reserved for stitch patterns such as ribbing or seed stitch that involve grafting a mixture of knit and purl stitches across a row. What many knitters don’t realize, however, is that when they graft stitches using the Kitchener mantra, “knit off, purl on; purl off, knit on,” they actually are grafting purl stitches, as well as knit stitches.

The knit and purl stitches don’t alternate across the row, as they do with grafted ribbing. Instead, all the knit stitches are created on the front needle with the right side facing and all the purl stitches are created on the back needle with the wrong side facing. We saw this in the first post of this series when we separated the front and back needle steps for Kitchener stitch:

grafting knitting

In the illustration, the groups of steps that are worked alternately on the front and back needles are color-coded: two set-up steps (in red), two repeated sequences of four steps each (the first one green and the second one yellow), and two ending-steps (in purple). As you’re working Kitchener stitch and going back and forth from one needle to the other, it can be difficult to discern a pattern. But by separating the steps on the front and back needles, we can see that each knit stitch on the front needle is created by passing the grafting yarn through a loop purlwise and knitwise, and each purl stitch on the back needle is created by passing the grafting yarn through a loop knitwise and purlwise. The purl stitches on the back needle are grafted with the wrong side facing and will look like knit stitches when viewed from the right side of the work.

As we also saw in the first post, the serpentine structure of the grafted row makes it possible to create an independent pattern row on each needle because the tops of the grafted stitches on the front needle form the running threads between the grafted stitches on the back needle, and vice versa:

But grafted purl stitches don’t have to be confined to the back needle and grafted knit stitches don’t have to be confined to the front needle. For example, to graft k1, p1 ribbing top-to-top, the grafted knit and purl stitches would alternate on both needles:

Note that the ribbing pattern on the front needle begins and ends with a knit stitch, while the ribbing pattern on the back needle begins and ends with a purl stitch. That’s because we’re seeing the wrong side of the work on the back needle. When the piece is laid out flat and viewed from the right side, both sides begin and end with a knit stitch:

The fact that two pattern rows are created when stitches are grafted might not be that obvious (or even matter all that much) with stitch patterns such as stockinette stitch and k1, p1 ribbing where all the rows look the same on the right side of the work. It becomes more of an issue when grafting stitch patterns such as garter stitch or seed stitch that change from row to row. With these types of patterns, even one row worked out of sequence can disrupt the pattern.
Not only do the grafting steps need to reflect the different stitch pattern on each needle (as viewed from the right side), but you must also make sure to end with the correct pattern row on each needle before grafting so that the pattern will be continuous. In this post, we’ll look at how this works with garter stitch.

Grafting Garter Stitch

(Note: All references to purl ridge rows and knit valley rows are as they are viewed from the right side of the work.)

There are three ways to achieve a garter stitch fabric when knitting: by knitting every row, by purling every row, or if you’re working circularly, by alternating a knit round with a purl round. All three will result in alternating purl ridge rows and knit valley rows:

In the illustration, the gray rows are knit valley rows and the white rows are purl ridge rows. A chart for garter stitch fabric would look like the one below, with purl symbols representing the purl ridge rows and knit symbols representing the knit valley rows:

Since grafting creates two pattern rows, it will be necessary to create both a purl ridge row and a knit valley row when grafting garter stitch. In addition, each piece on the front and back needle must end with a pattern row that is the opposite of the one that will be created on that needle.

We’ll see how this works in practice, but first let’s take a look at a couple of approaches commonly found in tutorials to see why they don’t work as the authors intended:

Two Incorrect Approaches to Grafting Garter Stitch

1. Grafting in Stockinette Between Two Ridge Rows
Tutorials for grafting garter stitch will sometimes direct knitters to end with a purl ridge row on each needle (by ending each piece with a wrong-side knit row, for example) and use Kitchener stitch to graft. The idea is that the grafting will supply a single knit valley row between two purl ridges. But as we’ll see, this actually adds two knit valley rows between the purl ridges.

In the illustration below, both pieces ended with a purl ridge row:

Here, both pieces are arranged for grafting top-to-top (with the right side of both pieces facing up):

Grafting the stitches using Kitchener stitch interrupts the alternating pattern of the garter stitch by inserting an extra knit valley row between two ridge rows.

A chart of the resulting stitch pattern would look like this:

On the chart, the last purl ridge row worked on the front needle is below the two rows of stockinette stitch created by grafting. The last purl ridge row worked on the back needle is above the two rows of the graft.

2. Grafting in Reverse Stockinette Between Two Knit Valley Rows
Another incorrect approach to grafting garter stitch sometimes seen in tutorials is to instruct knitters to end each piece with a knit valley row and graft in reverse stockinette. The objective is the same as in the first example: to create a single pattern row with the grafting (in this case, to create a single purl ridge between two knit valley rows). But this results in two purl ridge rows, instead of one, as intended.

In the illustration below, both pieces end with a knit valley row:

Here, both pieces are arranged for grafting top-to-top (with the right side of both pieces facing up):

Grafting the stitches using a reverse stockinette stitch graft inserts an extra purl ridge row between two knit valley rows.

A chart of the resulting stitch pattern would look like this:

On the chart, the last knit valley row worked on the front needle is below the two rows of reverse stockinette stitch created by grafting. The last knit valley row worked on the back needle is above the two grafting rows.

Using a Garter Stitch Graft: Two Correct Approaches

The only way to graft garter stitch so that the pattern is maintained is to use a garter stitch grafting technique that creates a purl ridge row on one needle and a knit valley row on the other needle. And there are two different ways to do this: either create a knit valley row on the front needle and a purl ridge row on the back needle, or create a purl ridge row on the front needle and a knit valley row on the back needle. Depending on which one you choose, you must end the pattern on the front and back needles accordingly.

1. Create a Knit Valley Row on the Front Needle and a Purl Ridge Row on the Back Needle
The last row of the swatch on the left is a purl ridge row and the last row of the swatch on the right is a knit valley row:

The swatch that ends with a purl ridge row will be held on the front needle during grafting and the swatch that ends with a knit valley row will be held on the back needle:

In this case, grafting in garter stitch will mean creating a row of knit stitches on the front needle with the right side facing and creating another row of knit stitches on the back needle with the wrong side facing (resulting in a purl ridge row on the back needle).

Just as knitted garter stitch is created by knitting every row (when working back and forth), knitted garter stitch is grafted by creating a knit row on the right side of the front needle (by going purlwise, then knitwise into every stitch), and a knit row on the wrong side of the back needle (also by going purlwise, then knitwise into every stitch). The chart below shows how the two pattern rows that are a result of the grafting fit perfectly between the last purl ridge row worked on the front needle and the last knit valley row worked on the back needle.

2. Create a Purl Ridge Row on the Front Needle and a Knit Valley Row on the Back Needle
The last row of the swatch on the left is a knit valley row and the last row of the swatch on the right is a purl ridge row:

The swatch that ends with a knit valley row will be held on the front needle during grafting and the swatch that ends with a purl ridge row will be held on the back needle:

This time, we’ll graft in garter stitch by creating a row of purl stitches on the front needle with the right side facing and a row of purl stitches on the back needle with the wrong side facing (resulting in a knit valley row on the back needle).

Just as purled garter stitch is created by purling every row (when working back and forth), purled garter stitch is grafted by creating a purl row on the right side of the front needle (by going knitwise, then purlwise into every stitch), and a purl row on the wrong side of the back needle (also by going knitwise, then purlwise into every stitch). The chart below shows how the two pattern rows that are a result of the grafting fit perfectly between the last knit valley row worked on the front needle and the last purl ridge row worked on the back needle.

Practical Applications

Sometimes simple garter stitch is the perfect stitch for a particular yarn, like Cascade Yarns Eco Duo. I love the subtle striation of dark, medium and light that resulted from working garter stitch on size US 11 (8 mm) needles with this yarn. The resulting fabric is very soft and “squishy,” very appropriate for a cowl.

I cast on provisionally by picking up 30 stitches in a waste yarn chain (leaving a long tail for grafting).

Then beginning with a wrong-side (purl ridge) row, I knit every row until I ran out of yarn, making sure I ended with a right-side (knit valley) row.

I followed the steps for the second version of garter stitch grafting that results in a purl ridge row on the front needle and a knit valley row on the back needle.

Since I didn’t want the color sequence to be interrupted at the join, I made sure to begin and end the strip in the middle of a dark band. When the two ends of the strip were grafted, the two halves formed one complete band.

Written Instructions for All Grafting in This Post

Stockinette stitch grafting (a.k.a. Kitchener stitch)

Two set-up steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.

Repeated sequence:
Step 1:
Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2:
Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 3:
Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 4:
Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Repeat Steps 1–4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the last stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the last stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.

K1, p1 ribbing grafting (top-to-top)

Set-up steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.

Repeated sequence:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 3: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 5: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 6: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 7: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the back needle.
Step 8: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Repeat Steps 1–8 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the last stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the last stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.

Reverse stockinette stitch grafting

Two set-up steps:
Step 1:
Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.

Repeated sequence:
Step 1:
Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 3: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Repeat Steps 1–4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the last stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the last stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.

Garter stitch grafting (knit valley row on the front needle and purl ridge row on the back needle)

Two set-up steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.

Repeated sequence:
Step 1:
Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 3: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Repeat Steps 1–4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the last stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the last stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.

Garter stitch grafting (purl ridge row on the front needle and knit valley row on the back needle)

Two set-up steps:
Step 1:
Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.

Repeated sequence:
Step 1:
Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 3: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Repeat Steps 1–4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the last stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the last stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.

Happy Grafting,

Joni Coniglio


The Great Graftsby Has You Covered!

5 Comments

  1. Myriam G at 4:33 pm March 29, 2018

    thank you for this clear explanation. I’ve known for long that, theoretically, a grafted row created two rows, but it was hard to fathom. One day, I experienced it while trying to graft garter-stitch shoulders, and I had to knit an extra row to make sure the shoulder stayed in pattern. But even then, I didn’t fully grasp it.
    It was when I saw your charts, showing the garter-stitch graft just now that it clicked.

  2. Joni C at 8:17 pm March 29, 2018

    Myriam G,

    I’m glad the charts helped. The “one-row-is-actually-two-pattern-rows” aspect of grafting can definitely be a tough one to wrap your brain around without having something tangible like a swatch or chart (or both) to refer to. It’s even tougher to describe it to someone else without using those visual elements!

  3. Anonymous at 11:25 am June 17, 2018

    This is very helpful. My biggest graft challenge is grafting the Interweave pattern, Winding River Cowl. (The pattern actually says twist after knitting and do a 3-needle bindoff—but yuck!). The Winding River Cowl has a cabled rib pattern with a garter stitch edge. I’ve made this pattern three times, and I always have to get help grafting the beginning and end garter stitches. Is the twist adding anthother step?

  4. Anonymous at 5:57 am July 20, 2018

    This was super helpful – just what I needed. Thank you!

  5. Anonymous at 11:26 pm August 29, 2018

    I very much appreciate this series on grafting myths and especially grafting garter stitch. I was very confused, though, when I first used the numbered steps at the bottom of this page.

    You state in your description within the article that you must insert into each stitch first purwise and then knitwise when working on a garter stitch with the purl ridge row on the front needle and knit valley row on the back needle. But the numbered steps under the header “GARTER STITCH GRAFTING (PURL RIDGE ROW ON THE FRONT NEEDLE AND KNIT VALLEY ROW ON THE BACK NEEDLE)” says to do the opposite.

    Or am I even more confused than I thought?

    Thanks

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